Driving home from the Seattle versus Houston match with two boys smiling in their sleep (Ellis, 6 and Emery, 4), I was struck by how therapeutic the match against the Dynamo was. Like other recent matches, Seattle fell behind on a rather fluky goal against the run of play. Also like previous games, the Sounders had chances to fight back. But unlike the last month plus of matches, in this game the Seattle Sounders came all the way back to earn three points and send those two boys and thousands of fellow fans home happy. The Fighting Seattle Nouhous won 2-1, at least briefly stopping the flow of losses and dropped points and creating a glimmer of hope that they may still sneak into the playoffs.
*Ratings input provided by professional rating staff.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.8
Frei didn’t have a lot to do. He made two saves and was scored on by a fortuitous bounce on a hard shot through the box that was redirected into the net. His organization of yet another formation in front of him was solid, and he quickly and correctly switched to long clearances when forcing through pressure proved to be a mistake.
One thing I liked: With the game (and season?) on the line late, Frei came out and took a massive hit from a Houston player who barreled into him in extra time. Stef did excellently to not shy away from contact and give the ref any reason to get more involved in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei clearly didn’t listen to my son in minute 25 when he attempted to punch out a corner kick cross. His punch wasn’t wide or far enough from goal, instead landing at the feet of Adalberto Carrasquilla inside the box, who was able to shoot. This shot was redirected into the net for an early Dynamo lead.
Emery: “Our goalie catches the ball and theirs punches the ball so ours is better ‘cause catching is better than punching.”
Nouhou – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.9 (MOTM)
HE DID IT. Nouhou finally scored his first goal, after a zillion games. He did everything in this one, with lockdown defensive work and incredible offense. Nouhou had two shots, a team high four key passes, and 85 percent passing on 76 touches. His defense was great, his offense was great, he was great.
One thing I liked: For those who tried to blame Nouhou for Seattle’s myriad offensive and defensive woes this year, this was the game to refute that. He was a rock defensively. He scored a massive game-tying goal. He assisted on the game winner, a beautiful back-post cross after an outside run and first-time ball that set up Fredy Montero perfectly.
One thing I didn’t like: Late, showing fatigue, Houston was able to get around Nouhou and cross into a dangerous area, something he rarely allows.
Emery: “Woohoo scored two goals, daddy. And they only had one. Woohoo wins. What I liked about Woohoo is that he scored.”
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.6
Arreaga returned to the left centerback position and was excellent at controlling the match, getting three clearances and a tackle while controlling possession around the back. Eighty-eight percent passing kept possession on his 66 touches, and Xavi played with a head up, aggressive passing posture.
One thing I liked: On multiple occasions, Arreaga pushed the tempo, stepping up high on the left with an advanced Nouhou to fortify space and support the offense.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle struggles on set pieces, with marking being a consistent risk.
Ellis: “I like number 3, he is fast. I like fast guys.”
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.5
Yeimar again was a solid defensive presence, leveraging his speed and size to especially limit Fafà Picault down the Sounders’ right. Two tackles, two interceptions, and five clearances highlighted a steady defensive shift that showed strong cohesion from the right.
One thing I liked: Yeimar repeatedly tried (and completed) more aggressive passing than usual, opening the match up with some excellent through balls and over the top attempts.
One thing I didn’t like: Asking Yeimar to be an offensive catalyst was too much in several instances, leading to some risky passes that were stolen or nearly stolen, giving the Dynamo unnecessary entry into a match they should have been completely shut out from.
Ellis: “Hey Daddy, his name is like Yay, and I was like Yay when we won.”
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.5
Roldan dropped back to a wide fullback position and put in a busy shift, getting 99 touches to lead the match and responding with an excellent 86 percent passing clip. Alex also had two key passes in support of a Sounders team that managed 20 shots.
One thing I liked: Alex had the most touches in the match but wasn’t ball dominant, moving the ball quickly through his zones and finding forward passes in lieu of going backwards. Three tackles, three interceptions, and two clearances highlighted a busy night as Houston tried repeatedly to come down his side but were rebuffed.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Alex had his hands full with Picault and was beaten a number of times down his wing.
Ellis: “He has a brother who plays soccer like me.”
Danny Leyva – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 56’ for Montero)
Leyva got a new partner in the defensive midfield and did well to play both directions, finding defensive positioning and an ability to move the ball forward. His communication and combination with Josh Atencio in the midfield were great, with both covering for each other and picking their spots to get higher as a combination. He had 62 touches, one shot, and 82 percent passing.
One thing I liked: This midfield partnership wasn’t perfect, but there was a clear cohesion and willingness to cover for each other that made them better than the sum of their individual parts. Each was willing to defend, knew when to push forward, and was strong in connection with the other, empowering teammates up the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Danny struggled at times to move the ball forward and was caught in possession on several occasions when there wasn’t an obvious pass to be found. When facing his own goal, Leyva nearly made some costly mistakes.
Ellis: “Danny is short for Daniel, but my name isn’t short for anything.”
Joshua Atencio – 7 | Community – 6.7 (off 83’ for Rowe)
Atencio started in the middle next to Leyva and was tremendous. He had the second most touches on the team with 90 and paired that with 90 percent completion. Gliding around the field to be a steady defensive presence, Josh was a nearly constant outlet, allowing teammates to take risks and rely on his positioning to facilitate aggressive play.
One thing I liked: Josh has deceptively long strides and incredibly soft feet, which allow him to recover from lost angles and transition from tight spaces by controlling hard and nearly impossible touches. He did both, at times forcing turnovers from what looked like strong Houston positions, or transitioning Seattle out of tight areas with nifty vision and passing.
One thing I didn’t like: Atencio nearly had a number of crucial turnovers, and relying on desperation toe pokes and reaching defense instead of positioning is something to improve on.
Emery: “I like that guy, he’s really big and strong.”
Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 6.9
Rusnák found much more success in his second match on the wing, lighting up the stat book with offensive incursions. He ended with 54 touches, 88 percent passing, and most importantly, three shots and two key passes.
One thing I liked: Rusnák continually showed off his incredible control, helping Seattle out of several tight situations with nifty dribbling and strong vision. When he started to invert more, he overloaded the central areas and gave Seattle a numbers advantage, which led to personal success. He repeatedly got the ball and found passes in between the lines to Nico in space.
One thing I didn’t like: Albert worked a give-and-go into the box in the 37th minute and was chopped down, a clear penalty that went uncalled and had to awake doubts in this team about their luck.
Ellis: “How come he has different sleeves? Wait, those are pictures? I want to see his arms. Can I get those?”
Nico Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.5
Lodeiro had a lot of creative help this match, with multiple defensive midfielders behind him and a strong offensive supporting cast. With lots of options, he had 90 touches, 87 percent passing, and looked more comfortable sharing the ball with others as Seattle continually pushed numbers forward and created chances.
One thing I liked: Two shots, two key passes, and just enough stepping back to facilitate others made for a strong outing from Lodeiro who didn’t try to do too much. He repeatedly found the right passes going forward, including opening up Jordan Morris and Nouhou respectively on each scoring play.
One thing I didn’t like: This season seemed ridiculously snakebit when Nico missed his first PK attempt in 19 tries.
Ellis: “He’s very important. He is the captain; you can tell because of his arm band.”
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.5
Morris returned to a wide attacking position but moved forward into a striker role often as dictated by play. He continually stretched the field to create space underneath. Although he only had 33 touches, Jordan had a well-rounded match, finding two key passes to go with two shots of his own.
One thing I liked: Although overshadowed by the HOUTRAIN choo-chooing onto the scoresheet, the first Sounders goal was a scramble play after some incredible work from Morris and Raúl Ruidíaz. Jordan drove into the box with his head up and, opposite of last match when he combined with Raúl near-post for a goal, this time Morris found a perfect cutback cross to Ruidíaz that created another excellent shot.
One thing I didn’t like: Things got a bit crowded after Montero arrived and pushed into the high areas Morris had been playing in. Jordan needs to stay relevant when he’s asked to do more than just run fast in a straight line.
Emery: “I like George Morris. He’s my favorite.”
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 6.5
Raúl was everywhere, making runs by slicing through to the near post or drifting off the back shoulder, dropping to hold up and even dribbling by a few defenders when necessary. He created a lot of shots for himself, but later also combined with Montero and Lodeiro to support more complicated attacking movements.
One thing I liked: Raúl drove near post and forced a save very early on, redirecting a nice Nouhou cross. Later he jab-stepped near and faded off to the six to get on the end of an excellent Morris ball which forced a poor clear and set up some Nouhou on the spot heroics. His movement in the box was excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: A massive eight shots was impressive, but only getting one on frame was a major disappointment for a striker who got into good places with the ball but forced shots into defenders and failed to put enough contact on goal.
Emery: “WowWúul is a funny name. I like it.”
Fredy Montero – 7 | Community – 7.7 (on 56’ for Leyva)
Fredy came in and was magnificent, doing a bit of everything. He was 11/13 passing, won nine duels, earned a PK, and scored the game-winning goal. His intensity was game-changing, getting the second-most duels in the entire match, directly resulting in goals for Seattle and integral to the win.
One thing I liked: This was by far the most impactful substitute performance of the year, with Fredy a part of multiple scoring opportunities, including the game-winner. His movement opened up others, he finished clean when given the chance at a huge play, and he wasn’t scared to force the ref into a big call with some creative footwork.
One thing I didn’t like: Montero isn’t afraid to employ the “dark arts.” Maybe he can share his ways with guys like Morris, who play through contact, don’t get calls, and are punished for it.
Emery: “He scored a goal and then pulled up his shirt.” Ellis: “Yeah, I’m gonna do that when I’m a Sounder.”
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 83’ for Atencio)
Rowe came in and was part of a defense that suddenly had a lead to defend. He put in a lot of hustle centrally without being on the ball much.
One thing I liked: Rowe only had six touches but completed all his passes and clogged up the middle late.
One thing I didn’t like: Tasked with holding onto the lead, Rowe had a single reported defensive action, a recovery.
Emery: “Like row row row your boat!” Both boys proceed to sing the entire song, accompanied by youngest brother dancing.
Silviu Petrescu – 5 | Community – 5.5
This was a quintessential Petrescu match, an old-school ref who refuses to use cards unless there’s blood and bones sticking out. Time and again, contact was ignored, and players adjusted to protect themselves as best as they could. However, multiple injuries forced long added time to both halves. Not having VAR or a giant referee mishap define a match felt weird.
One thing I liked: There were enough moments in this match to force a Sounders fan to hold their breath, expecting the worst. Other than what looked to be a blatant PK call missed when Rusnák was fouled in the box, Petrescu was “only” the story for not calling fouls and giving cards instead of giant game-defining whistles.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle committed six total fouls and got two yellow cards. Houston 15 and one. Carrasquilla was allowed four called fouls and as many more uncalled actions without caution, which permitted him to consistently stop Sounders attacks in the middle.
Emery: “He pulled a yellow card out of his pockets and holded it up. I liked when he gave the yellow card to the Houston.”
Houston Dynamo MOTM
Steve Clark comes away with the award for being the first MLS keeper to save a Lodeiro penalty. He went early and kinda gravitied Nico’s attempt to his paws. Additionally, he stayed home well on that early Nouhou-Raúl attempt and came off his line well to clean up several speculative crosses from the Sounders. Ellis and Emery were unavailable for comment, presumably because Clark is a former Timber.
Next up: A good team enters in another must-win match.